The Southern Poverty Law Center is still awaiting a federal judge’s decision on whether to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges the state fails to provide all Mississippians access to a fair and uniform education as required under an 1869 federal law. In May, the group filed a lawsuit on behalf of four public school mothers arguing that the effects of decades-old efforts to preserve segregation in Mississippi public schools still exist in today’s education system. Congress passed the Mississippi’s Readmission Act in 1869, which established conditions for Mississippi to return to the United States after secession. The act stated “that the constitution of Mississippi shall never be so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the school rights and privileges secured by the constitution of said State.”
The lawsuit states that a new Mississippi constitution in 1890 and subsequent amendments to the constitution until 1987 violated that condition. “We are not asking this judge to tell Mississippi how to come into compliance with this obligation,” said Southern Poverty Law Center senior staff attorney Will Bardwell at a coffee forum Thursday.